Chrissy Ann hears someone say she stinks. She goes to the corner of the playground and kicks the fence. I ask her whats wrong. Nothing, she says. I ask her if she is coming to baseball practice. I already know she is because her dad and my stepdad are the coaches. They say her dad is racist but he is always nice to all the black people on our team. She asks can she wear my hat. I give it to her. Blondish brown hair hangs out. Whats this X stand for, she says. Malcolm X, I say. Who is that.
Buck runs over and says, Stinking bitch, you smell like wolf pussy. How do you know what wolf pussy smells like, she says, wolves aint even in West Virginia. Yeah, I say, wolves only live in the North Pole, you stupid muthafucka. So, Buck says, you still stink.
Chrissy Ann don’t stink. She smells like work. Like how I smell like coal smoke. She lives at the end of the holla on top of a mountain and has lots of hogs and chickens. She feeds them every morning. When I was at her house her little brother stuck a stick up the hog’s butt. Chrissy Ann slapped the shit out of him. Then she hugged the hog. Then she said we should take a walk in the woods to get out the heat and away from her stupid brother.
We stroll through old trees. Dirt is black and soft. Dark green ferns and bright green moss. We pick blackberries and blow on them before eating. Mushrooms the size of saucers. Not for eating, she says, but to keep cool. She rubs the mushroom on her forehead and cheeks. Tells me to. The brown inside of the mushroom feels like a damp sponge. She picks another and rubs it on her neck and arms. Grabs my wrist and rubs the mushroom on the inside of my arm. My neck. She presses her lips against mine and pushes her tongue in my mouth. It tastes like blackberries. Is this okay, she says. Yeah, I say. We look at my shorts poking out. She smells like mushrooms and hogs.
I get my first summer job. On the trash truck Mondays through Friday. Four-twenty five an hour. I get up at five-thirty and meet the truck at the city hall at six. Just throw the goddamn bags in the truck, Russell says, then hit the side to let me know when you done and I’ll pull off. I throw a bag in, hit the side of the truck, he pulls off. He drives slowly up hills, down hills, around curves, up hills again. Throw bag, hit truck, pull off.
Some of the bags bust. Meat and milk drip onto my chest. Diapers, chicken bones, maxi pads. I lift a bag above my head and brown jelly oozes into my mouth. Lunch time, Russell says, we behind schedule cuz of you. We’ll just sit right here on the back of the truck and eat real quick. I sit with my bologna sandwich and Fritos. Gray milk, I think, soaks through my pants until I feel it in my crack and on my balls.
Russell pulls a blue cooler from behind the seat. In it are two ice cold bottles of MD 20/20. Orange Jubilee and Banana Red. He gives me the Banana Red and says, A little afternoon refreshment, good sir. Why thank you, Sir Russell, I say, you are most kind. You are most welcome, but don’t think you gonna get some free shit every day, nigga.
Tell You a Story
Grandad is shuffling his cards at the kitchen table. Counting money. Shuffling more. Come here for a sec, he says to me. Lemme tell you a story. I sit next to him. What do you want, he says. You said you wanted to tell me a story, I say. Nope, he says, I said I wanted to tell You a story. Is your name You. No, I say. He busts out laughing. I been lookin for that muthafucka all my goddamn life, he says, if you ever find You, let me know.
Steven Dunn was born and raised in West Virginia, and after ten years in the Navy he earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from University of Denver. His first novel, Potted Meat, is forthcoming from Tarpaulin Sky Press in March 2016.